Behind The Scenes: He Said I Was Wrong

I sat down with the CEO of a Fortune 50 company that I admired. This meeting was the first face-to-face interaction. He started with a genuine interest in me and my work. Then I shared my research on the founders and CEOs of fast-growth companies. After hearing the big revelation, he quickly said, “I was wrong.” I didn’t know what to say. If I was wrong, what would this mean for my business? I leaned in to hear why I was wrong to figure out what I was missing. Being told you are wrong by a person you respect profoundly is tough. I turned inwardly to see how I was wrong. I wrestled with these ideas to figure out that, in the end, I was not wrong. Being told I was wrong lit a fire in me and allowed a deeper commitment to my research. Listen to today’s behind the scenes episode to see what he said I was wrong about.

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He Said I Was Wrong: The Transcript

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

I’ve got to confess to you a couple of weeks ago I had my world shaken up. Why, because I sit down with someone that was the CEO of a company that was in the Fortune 50 they huge company big name. I won’t say who it was but I will say that having lunch with that person was something I had been looking forward to for months that they really were taking some time out to invest in me get to know me. And it was an exciting time. But here’s what happened.

I shared with this CEO about my research with fast-growth companies you know all of the research I talk about all the time if you’re listening to these episodes and all the interviews I have with the founders and CEOs of fast-growth companies and you won’t believe what happened next.

Hi my name is Gene Hammett. I am really honored to work with already successful leaders to help them create more success for themselves and their teams more impact in the world to become the leaders that they really know they can be. I speak on stages all around the world. I coach people individually and I run some retreats for small groups of high growth leaders.

Today we’re talking about me being told I was wrong. It never feels good to be told you’re wrong. But in this case, I really respected this person so I really listened in. I leaned in to try to understand and I really question was I wrong. So here’s the context of this story. I’m sitting down to lunch with the CEO of a Fortune 50 company really large company not gonna say who it was again but I was really honored to be there and we had a really good conversation about sort of how I got to be where I am today.

And one of the things that the question came back is what are you excited about. And I said I’m really excited about the research I’ve been doing with leaders because they ask him this one question and really has gotten to the heart of something there’s really different and I want to share it with you.

He said sure. So I mentioned how I ask this one question. Maybe you’ve heard me say before maybe you haven’t but that one question is as a leader what’s more important your employees or your customers no one let you think about that question. What would you answer? Is it your employees or is it your customers. Now if you’re haven’t figured out what it is yet. Pause right now because I’m going to give you the answer in just a minute. And what happened next. But think about what it is for you so that you can kind of play along with me in this scenario.

This conversation so goes on pause and come back to this when you got the answer if you already have the answer. Let’s go when I ask that question as a leader. What’s more important your employees or your customers I shared my research pointed that nine out of 10 fast growth leaders will say its employees his immediate response back to me was You’re wrong, they’re wrong.

And he gave me all of the reasons why that’s not possible and leaders are really supposed to put the customer first. Now I was leaning in I was really trying to accept what this message was because I really respected everything about what they’ve done but I started to think about this. Maybe he misunderstood me so I tried to reframe this and I tried to talk about how I really believe that the company must put the customer first the customer value the customer experience and they must really create a great place for that customer to act to get value from the company but the leader’s job was to grow the people.

And if you’re there to grow the people you must put the people first so that the people can put the company first. Well again I was wrong as he’s told me I was wrong but for many other reasons and I really walked away from that lunch going. Am I wrong? I share this with you because it was very uncomfortable. I question myself for a little bit. I talked to my wife about it. I talked to some of my clients about it.

Here’s what I came to discover that it wasn’t long there is a new era of leadership that you must be aware of. There is a new era of putting employees first that people have not caught on to and the reason I say that is because the next 10 or 11 conversations I had after that for full two weeks I mapped everyone and I asked everyone the same question and I tried to ask it in the same way so that I didn’t forecast what I wanted them to answer.

And all of them ended up saying that its employee first. Now, why do fast-growth companies put the employee first well they have really understood the longevity that they have and customers maybe it’s the tight labor market but they really want their employees to feel taken care of and they want their employees to take care of the customers. And now I’ve talked to the number one company in two dozen 19 David free stars. I’ve talked to many many others since then and every one of them came back 100 percent came back and said its employee first.

I know it’s an unfair question but I just wanted leaders to see where they were in this question. One of the big things that came out of this was a discussion about United Airlines a few years ago had a situation maybe you remember that where a gentleman was dragged off the plane. That is certainly not putting the customer first. Will the CEO actually did say that all the employees followed the regulations and the kind of support of the employees.

And it really is an example of putting employees first but the real thing behind that was that was one of the examples that this CEO gave me as to why it’s not possible cause that was very negative press.

Now I started thinking about that a few days later and I was really looking working with my team and say you know what. What should have happened there?

Now I don’t know what you think should have happened there as a leader but I know from my perspective that there were probably multiple people it wasn’t just the gate agent that said pull this guy off. It wasn’t just probably their direct manager. There were probably quite a few discussions that happened in space of five or 10 or 15 minutes. And many people were involved. Now I truly believe that they were afraid to make a big decision there. The culture had put it so that they need to follow the regs the guidelines and that they couldn’t make a decision.

My hope is I would create a team and you would create a team that would look at all of the details of this and says you know what. I know what the guidelines say but here’s the decision we want to make.

We want to not pull that person off the plane. We want to take the employee that needed that seat because it wasn’t another customer it was actually another employee that needed the seat and we want to take that customer and allow them to you know get on another plane maybe even charter private jet the ten thousand dollars that it would have taken to get a private jet if that’s what it cost maybe it was thousand. Doesn’t matter how much it was because it would have been a lot cheaper to make the decision to put that employee on another plane than it would’ve been to drag that person off like they did because the negative press mind that cost them millions and they became the laughingstock of the airline industry and really all over the place.

Now the real thing that you can see behind here is if they had truly put employees first they would have had enough empowerment inside the organization that it’s OK to make decisions. It’s okay to Tuco. Yeah I know what it says in the rulebook but let’s do this differently because people have their cell phones people have they’re going to record this is going to go it’s gonna be a nightmare for us.

Let’s stop this right now and let’s look go ahead and make a different decision and then be okay if you know you’re not gonna lose their job. They were wrong but they would figure something out. I share this with you because yes it hurt to feel like I was wrong.

But I come back to us with a little bit more clear mind you’re talking to so many people in my research is not just you know 10 people I’ve talked to over 400 founders and CEOs about this exact idea of putting the employee first. And I share this with you because I want you to think about it as a leader. Are you truly putting your employee first do you believe that it’s OK if you don’t put fast-growth companies nine out of 10 times will say its employee first. My name name’s Jean Hammett I work with leaders that are already successful that want to go beyond where they are today to create a great culture to create new growth and to create new strategies that allow them to excel if you have any questions make sure you reach out to me Jean at Jean Hemet dot com and as always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.


Solo Episode 479 with Gene Hammett



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